Early results boost for tidal energy research

Paul Boughton

The SNAIL – a tidal energy device developed by The Robert Gordon University (RGU) in AberdeenScotland – has been undergoing extensive trials in very high currents off Orkney for the past three weeks.

Using test facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre Ltd in Orkneythe SNAIL has proven its capability to operate in currents as high as 3.5m/sec.

Alan Owenwho is leading the project at Robert Gordon University said: “The innovative hydrofoil design has kept the SNAIL absolutely stable without the need for additional foundationsanchoring or any form of seabed preparation. We are over the moon – it’s not budged so much as an inch.”

The success of the projectwhich was conceived by Professor Ian Bryden and undertaken by his team at RGUis an important step in the development of tidal and ocean current energy technology as it provides a cost-effective and operationally simple method of deploying such systems.

The construction of seabed foundations and the cost of seabed preparation is a potential obstacle to tidal/ocean current energy but the SNAIL design now effectively eliminates that obstacle.

The WINKLEwhich is a smaller scale version of the SNAIL developed for river applicationswas tested earlier this year in the River Ythan and again worked very successfully in very fast flowing waters.

Tidal currents offer a substantial and predictable source of renewable energy.

The Scottish resource aloneif developed effectivelycould provide enough electricity to support a population of 15 million.

At present the potential to use tidal energy is limited by installation methods for turbineswhich require firm attachment to the seabed.

This is very expensive andat presentrequires turbines to be placed in water depths greater than 25 m and less than 50 m. The full size SNAIL is a prefabricated tidal device that can be cheaply installed in shallow and deep water.

This will significantly increase the number of suitable sites for turbines and reduce installation costs.

In additionthe potential export market for prefabricated tidal current devices which can be installed without specialist hardwareis considerable.

Given the potential of the technology to the Scottish economythe project has received £158 000 from Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept Fund.

For further informationtelephone Professor Ian Bryden on +44 (0)7802 820182.

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